CANBERRA, AAP – Companies with soaring profits that also received wage subsidies will not be forced to repay JobKeeper despite intensifying scrutiny of the scheme.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has ruled out compelling profitable firms to hand back taxpayers’ cash despite new data showing some didn’t need it.
About 35,000 companies doubled or tripled profits while receiving $690 million in JobKeeper payments.
Mr Frydenberg said it was misleading to contrast the government’s welfare debt collection program with the tax office’s inaction on wage subsidies.
“The ATO chase down people who have broken the law just as Services Australia chase down people who have broken the law,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.
“If we had delayed and waited to provide JobKeeper based on an actual decline in turnover or based on a percentage of someone’s income, we wouldn’t have got the money out the door.”
Labor is pressuring companies that turned big profits to repay funds from the $90 billion scheme.
Mr Frydenberg said he welcomed companies choosing to do that but would not legislate to force their hand.
“If the Labor Party are proposing to actually go back and get the money from small businesses from around the country who received JobKeeper then we’ll oppose that,” he told the Nine Network.
Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh, who has led the charge against waste in the scheme, said some of the money went to billionaire shareholders and high-paid executives.
“The idea that we should be giving taxpayer cash to firms that are doubling or tripling their revenues is reprehensible,” he told the ABC.
“This is the sort of flagrant misspending of money that you’d expect to see in some tin-pot dictatorship, not in a well-run economy like Australia’s.”
Harvey Norman repaid $6 million in JobKeeper payments this week after months of pressure.
Independent senator Rex Patrick has threatened ATO Chris Jordan with contempt of parliament proceedings for declining an upper house order to disclose big companies’ JobKeeper receipts.
Companies qualified for the JobKeeper wage subsidy based on government-determined falls in turnover due to the pandemic.